Date: April 1, 2012
Location: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Final Score: 91-72
Key Players: Avery Bradley (Dwyane Wade stopper extraordinaire), Rajon Rondo (yet another triple double, 16 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds)
Top Plays: Apart from Bradley’s legendary swat on Dwyane Wade (1:03), I can’t choose. Watch the video above and revel in the glory of Rondo.
Rundown: Boston jumped out to multiple leads in this game, but each time they did in the first half, Miami came storming back to close the deficit. Rondo picked apart Miami’s defense with a variety of no-look passes to cutting teammates, and Miami, a very good defensive team, never seemed comfortable against Boston. The Celtics ran away with the game in the second half, holding Miami to a season low 72 points.
All summer, I’ve been preaching the gospel of hope, that Ray Allen’s departure won’t actually hinder the Celtics as a team offensively, and that it will significantly improve them defensively. This game is a good example of what I’ve been saying. To clarify: I’m not minimizing Allen as a player, I’m not vilifying him for leaving for more South Beachey pastures, and I’m not downgrading his contributions to the team. But age does bad things to great players. Allen sat this game out injured, and the Celtics, at least against the Heat, were a better team because of it.
When Rondo’s teammates are quick enough to get up the floor with him, keeping the defense off-balance, Boston becomes a surprisingly dangerous offensive team. Check out the video at 1:55 above. With the Celtics on a 4-3 fast break, Rondo only needs the two players ahead of him (in this case, Bradley and Bass, both players who can run with him) to create a three for the trailing Pierce. Pierce didn’t need to be moving at the speed of the younger guys, he just needed to know his place in the fast break and knock down the three.
The problem opposing teams, specifically top tier teams like Miami who Rondo seems particularly interested in beating, face with Rondo is that he doesn’t need to get his jumpshot going to beat them. He just needs to get in a comfortable rhythm moving the ball around, especially with his interior passing. He mixes things up nicely, between drive and kicks to the perimeter and tricky passes for cutting players. The strange thing is that with Pierce and Allen both shooting threes off Rondo’s drive and kicks, they almost became redundant on offense. Bradley’s intelligent reading of the defense was more beneficial with a quarterback like Rondo chucking passes inside.
Reading Bradley’s stat line isn’t complete without reading his opponent’s stat line as well to get an idea of how well Bradley played defensively, so here are Wade’s numbers: 15 points, 6-17 shooting, 0-3 from three point range, 3 assists, 2 turnovers. Another day, another future Hall of Fame shooting guard frustrated offensively to the point of anger (check Wade’s trash talk to Bradley after the block. He mad, bro). It’s whatever.
What it meant:
This is the last regular season game on the countdown. Not only did Boston blow out Miami, they exposed Miami’s flaws and how the Celtics could exploit those flaws. It was after this game that I began hoping that Boston would get a shot at Miami in the playoffs.
After Bradley went out for the season, I no longer expected Boston to beat Miami in a 7 game series, but I wasn’t about to predict that the Heat would blow the Celtics out either. Even without Bradley, the Celtics still had Rondo, and Rondo is still a rather significant thorn in Miami’s side. This game had little lasting significance, especially in the playoff picture, but it was still indicative of the problems Boston posed for a team like Miami.
And quite frankly, it was fun as hell to see the Heat get stomped on. So there was that.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.